An Endangered Species

The most endangered species in this city of ours is the pedestrian….the combination of the IT boom and the government policies is that the poor person who tries to use the roads without polluting with fossil fuel emissions is almost certainly doomed.

Everywhere, the pavements are dug up erratically, in several places, the footpath has been reduced to make more space for the gas-guzzling monsters that are necessary to the new boom-city which still does not have a good public transport service. The most recent example in point is the digging up of the M G Road boulevard, long a bastion for the pedestrian, to make way for the Metro, which, admittedly, is a crying need for our city.

Let’s look at the difficulties a reasonably fit person who wants to walk has to face.

First of all, there seems to be no standardization on footpaths at all. In some places, there are cement tiles which sometimes work loose; in others, concrete slabs, yet elsewhere, there are the old granite slabs that are haphazardly laid across the drains. Often, there are gaping holes across the storm water drains that these slabs cover. Indeed, someone I knew fell into one of these holes in the pouring rain, and lost his life…and the family fatalistically accepted this horrific incident (they found him in the morgue after many days, having reported him missing.)

There are the stray dogs that, quite literally, can dog the path of a pedestrian, and you walk with mental tension, wondering if and when an attack will materialize.

One has to skirt piles of garbage that people have dumped. And of course, many who erect buildings seem to think that the pavement is the place to store construction material and sand, and that it’s also OK to throw waste material, including sharp iron bars and nails, on the footpath.

One also has to share the footpath with various pushcart vendors and stall owners, who seem to think that the footpath is put there for these purposes. And one cannot blame them…where else do they have to go?

Most intersections do not have any kind of pedestrian crossing to help road users cross; and if there is one, certainly no pedestrian has the right of way there. You have to take your life in your hands, say a quick prayer, and step on to the road, hoping to outwit the cars and trucks speeding down at you, intent on getting past…fast. I remember the joke about the two little boys who are trying to cross the road, and one asks the other, “What do you want to be if you grow up?”

Nor are footpaths designed for people. Uneven slabs, unexpected potholes, and muddy patches are traps for the unwary. Footpath users must jump up and down when crossing driveways, and often, things like BESCOM transformers also block the space available for walking, with fences around them, too.

And if the average, healthy person finds it so difficult to use the pavements, just imagine what it must be like if one has a handicap as well. In the US, pavements slope down to the road at the corners so that pushchairs and wheelchairs can negotiate them easily to cross. Well, that might be too much to ask here, but at least the height of the pavement could be standardised….in many places, the footpath can be called that because it is nearly a foot taller than the road next to it! Ask any elderly person who has to walk, and you will get a tale of woe.

Of course, an additional feature of rush-hour Bangalore traffic is that very often, two wheelers think nothing of mounting the pavement and riding along to beat the jam on the road. It is for the hapless pedestrian to manage as best s/he can.

All this results, very often, in pedestrians using the roads, and that’s quite dangerous for both the pedestrians, and motorists; sometimes they both try to occupy the same space at the same time, with disastrous results.

Let’s hope the government wakes up and realizes that walking is, apart from being great exercise, a very eco-friendly way of getting to nearby places or to public transport…and makes things easier for the only truly threatened species of the human race….Homo sapiens pedestriansis!

A few solutions that I can think of, which BBMP could implement:

Have footpaths proportional to the roads, even if this means a little less width of the road. This needs a mindset that recognizes the rights of the pedestrian.

Design footpath corners that taper into the road, this will make the footpaths wheelchair, and perambulator-friendly.

Do not place electrical transformers in the middle of footpaths, if any alternate placement is possible.

Have standardization in the height of pavements, and uniformity in the pavement composition, whether it is tiles, granite, or cement.

Do not allow random digging of footpaths. To avoid this, granite slabs can be laid over stormwater drains or drain runoffs, for easy access later on, without digging.

Do I think anyone from BBMP will be reading this entry?…….I wish someone would read it….

Some pictures that I took of the pavements, in my earlier post, at

Walk down Bannerghatta Road

I walked down the same path day before yesterday…and nothing has changed… :(

7 Comments so far

  1. sudhira on March 30th, 2008 @ 3:11 pm

    Very important and relevant post, Deepa! Recently, Sudhir Gota of Secon also highlighted the plight of pedestrians. Check out his blog post at THE CITY FIX on:

    Behind Bangalore’s Growth, A New Species Is Born: Transport Challenged People
    . That apart, Prof. Madhav Badami (primarily with McGill Univ, Canada and visiting IIMB) gave a presentation at the BMLTA meeting as well. He also did stress on improving "accessibility" to people rather than "mobility" to people driven automobiles! Yet, I wish some BBMP folks would read your post!

  2. lubna on March 30th, 2008 @ 8:16 pm

    I so agree with you. There is an urgent need to make crossing of roads safer. More traffic signals (even if it slows the traffic) – at least it will make it orderly. More pedestrian crossings. More respect for the pedestrian. Worse is the loose wires seen from street lamp-posts. Bangalore has the perfect weather for walking, sad to see, no one can do so.

  3. contemplating on March 31st, 2008 @ 10:23 am

    Hello Deponti,
    Agree with you that the condition of the traffic, pavements ,roads is pretty bad right now, but please "There are the stray dogs that, quite literally, can dog the path of a pedestrian, and you walk with mental tension, wondering if and when an attack will materialize. "… that is really not fair… i guess we are completely phobic about sharing our space with animals in general, comparing to the kind of torture these animals go through,i think that comment up there i not valid… you can actualy see that now,with the new airport completely disrrupting the eco-system in devanahalli … please do have some tolerance to other species before passing such comments..

  4. sandman999 on April 2nd, 2008 @ 5:37 pm

    This is in response to the comment posted by ‘contemplating’. Whatever the dogs might be enduring, I feel there is no justification for continued presence of stray dogs on side walks. That too within city limits. There is a real threat of rabies, in addition to the dog litter that makes you to be extra cautious not to put your foot into one. What ever the animal activists might conjure up, stray dogs need to be removed from city limits. In which developed city do you find stray dogs on side walks? Whenever I have to take the side walks of MG road, my wife gets so scared when sees those stray dogs, she squeezes my hand so hard, it hurts (I don’t mind it though :). Imagine stray dogs in Times Square. And most stray dogs in Bangalore look disease inflected and should be put out of their misery or taken away at the minimum. All those justifications used by animal activists for their continued presence are taken seriously only in India, because we are trying to accommodate everyone and in the process end up doing stupid things and destroying our country.

  5. contemplating on April 3rd, 2008 @ 9:11 am

    yes… right…

    "Developed" countries give no space to other animals in their "developed" new-york, the owner needs to remove the poop after its done its job on the footh-path.. and here you are talking about dog poop when people are watering the walls wherever possible???…plzzz
    The diseased dogs have to be taken away… agreed…but I really dont understand why people have to be so paranoingly phobic about dogs..(i was bitten 4 times myself in life, but u need not be phobic) today its the dogs, tomorrow it will be the cows… hey no wait.. but cows are useful so maybe we might not bury them alive the way puppies were will we???..
    PS: humans cause more destruction than any other species on earth.. so dogs cant possibly destroy a country.
    Anyway, sad to know that most of us here think that dogs are more dangerous than our politicians.

  6. sandman999 on April 3rd, 2008 @ 9:02 pm

    hi ‘contemplating’, please, listen to what you are saying..

    First of all, we are talking about stray dogs in city limits not dogs owned by individuals.

    Also, are you saying, just because humans litter foot paths by micturating and such, stray dogs should be allowed to stay on foot paths and litter as well? once again, please think about what you are suggesting..

    I agree humans cause real destruction. the very amenities you enjoy now (as opposed to living in a forest or something close to nature) were made possible by sustained destruction of flora and fauna for many centuries. i know you didn’t have a choice, but we can’t get back all that by letting stray dogs remain on foot paths, now can we?

    I could understand if you were being passionate about an endangered species. but we are talking about stray dogs here, and that too about their presence within city limits. and trust me, i don’t have anything against stray dogs or any other animals, but i just don’t think they have a place on the foot paths of a modern city (let us not forget about the real health hazard they pose by the way of rabies). but if you don’t want bangalore to reform by progressive thinking and instead continue its downward spiral into a chaotic living hell, you too can continue to be delusional with your atavistic, retrograde thinking.

    ps: please don’t drag politicians into this. they are a species unto themselves :)

    full disclosure: i am a proud owner of a one year old german shepherd.

  7. Deponti (bglr_deepa) on April 3rd, 2008 @ 9:19 pm

    Debate is useful until it becomes personal. One can attack the viewpoint, but the person is entitled to it. So please…no derogatory adverbs in the comments. I don’t want ad hominem, because that quickly makes the debate degenerate into loud argument.

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